I wrote most of these articles and conference reports while I was doing my M.Ed.(CI). Originally put up on the website TeachAsiaOnline.com (defunct since 2009), I have decided to archive them here as I think most of the information is still relevant and useful for others. (2012) I'm now picking up where I left off to write about more recent seminars I attended.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Presenting New Language

Speaker: Clive Oxenden
Organised by: Oxford University Press, ELT Division, Bangkok
Date: 18 January 2006
Location: Kattareeya 2, Ambassador Hotel, Sukhumvit 11, Bangkok

Mr. Oxenden’s first lecture was about “Presenting New Language”, which focused on grammar teaching. His lecture addressed the main difficulty of learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), which is that the language they learn is not spoken around them. The best way to overcome this, is to present the language in context, which is how the teacher can make it memorable and easy to remember.

Using textbooks when teaching language has two major problems. First of all, the students will be looking at
the book instead of the teacher. Also, the textbooks are usually too global and too general to be of interest for the students.

To solve the first problem Mr. Oxenden suggests to let the students close the book and present the new language with visual aids. The second problem can be solved through personalisation and localisation of tasks and making them more authentic.

He then illustrated these solutions with examples from the course book that he co-wrote (New English File). He used overhead projector, whiteboard, pictures, his own experiences, funny sentences and realia to give us an idea on how grammar can be presented. His final idea to keep the students interested was what he calls the ‘mystery element’, when he surprises the students with something they don’t expect.

At the end of part 1, he asked us whether we could remember what he had presented up to then. We remembered most of it. Which proves his case.

Using visual aids in the classroom is obviously a way to keep the students involved, and personalising and localising the tasks and making them more authentic is a must.

Mr. Oxenden didn’t always follow his own advice. He expected the public to recognise pictures of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the resignation speech of Mr. Nixon and the party scene in Brazil. On the other hand, his use of humour and personalising the task, using himself as an example (“I used to be afraid of water”; talking about a phobia; grammar point: “used to”), made some grammar points definitely more entertaining.

Whether we should teach students the phonetic system nowadays is the question. Many of my students have a talking dictionary, which can model the pronunciation of words for them. As computer dictionaries more and more replace paper dictionaries, the need for learning the phonetic symbols will decrease.

At the end of part 1, Mr. Oxenden verified that we all remembered what he had talked about. HOWEVER, he did not let the students reproduce the target language (the grammar point they had learned). E.g. he would say “When I was young I used to be afraid of…” and we had to reproduce “water” and maybe “phobia”. That is not the right way to check if the students have learned the grammar point. They will surely remember Mr. Oxenden’s phobia, but will they remember “used to”?

Oxenden, Clive et al. New English File Pre-Intermediate Student’s Book. UK: Oxford University Press, 2005.

The other part of Mr. Oxenden's lecture Getting the Students to Speak can be found at http://education-articles-and-conferences.blogspot.com/2011/11/getting-students-to-speak-magic.html.

(c) cafavier, 2006-2011

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